Writing For Money

The Internet Newsletter That Shows You How To Make Money And Live A Great Life As A Freelance Writer


Business Tactics


Take a Course … Even Better, Teach One!


BY ROBERT W. BLY | Let me admit it up front: I’m a seminar nut. I love information, especially in books, magazines, special reports, newsletters, audio tapes, the Web, seminars, and classes.


Why continue to take classes into your old age, way past the time you are required to go to school? Aside from learning for the pure pleasure of it, a writer trades basically in words and knowledge. Classes add data to your knowledge base which you can then resell in various writing projects.


Increasingly, clients and editors look for specialists. Getting a degree or certificate can be a value-added credential that makes potential customers choose you instead of other writers they’re talking with. If you serve clients in the medical emergency services business, for example, get yourself certified in CPR.


Seminar leaders and other teachers you get to know while taking their classes can turn out to be good expert sources you can interview for various articles. And the information they convey may spark ideas for additional projects. For instance, my taking a course in “Careers in Music” led to the idea for my book on glamorous careers — Creative Careers (John Wiley & Sons).


Writers are communicators, so instead of just taking classes, we can teach them too — also for fun and profit. In fact, with fees for speakers ranging from $100 to $4,000 a day, teaching writing or your subject specialty often pays better than doing the writing itself.


Who will pay you to teach? In the corporate world, many executives will tell you their employees are poor writers. This has created a steady demand for in-house corporate seminars in business writing, technical writing, proposal writing, grammar, and related topics.


If you write on a subject of interest to businesspeople — stress reduction, time management, leadership, success, selling, management, interpersonal skills, desktop design, the Internet — you may find a ready market for in-house corporate training seminars on these topics as well.


Contact corporations and offer your services as a seminar leader. Write to training managers. Or call vice presidents, supervisors, and department managers whose employees may need improvement in writing or other skills. Prepare an outline of your course and a biography highlighting your credentials to send prospective clients who request more information. Design these materials so they can be faxed or e-mailed if there is immediate interest. If demand builds and inquiries come pouring in, consider registering a domain name and posting these seminar descriptions on your own Web site.


Another market for your seminars and talks is writers and wanna-be writers. Aspiring writers in particular want you to reveal the secrets of how to get published. They also want help becoming better writers.


Every writer has marketing and sales skills within his or her specialty or markets — and you can share these with other writers for a profit. For instance, if you are successful writing annual reports, can you teach other writers how to get these lucrative assignments? Or can you give a half day seminar on how to make money editing medical monographs for doctors and pharmaceutical companies?


There are several venues available. You can teach adult education courses for community colleges, universities, high-school adult education programs, YMCAs, writer’s groups, libraries, and bookstores.


Fees are usually modest. Some seminar sponsors pay a flat rate of a few hundred dollars at most. Others pay you a percentage of the registration fees ranging from 15 to 50 percent. Bookstores expect you to speak for free, viewing it as an opportunity for you to sell books and promote your business.


Some writers promote and sponsor their own writing seminars. While the rewards can occasionally be great, this option entails the greatest out of pocket expense … and the greatest risk. It also requires a knowledge of seminar marketing, direct mail, newspaper advertising, and other promotional methods.


Another outlet for giving seminars to writers is writer’s conferences. Writer’s Digest runs ads and announcements for upcoming writer’s conferences. Almost every conference features writing and marketing workshops led by professional writers. Write to conference directors and offer your services.


Pay here is usually a modest honorarium, although a famous or best-selling author may be able to command higher fees. The perk is free conference attendance with all or most expenses paid. We once enjoyed a lovely Florida vacation at no charge when I spoke at a writer’s conference in Orlando. I ask for other favors to compensate for the low pay — for example, free usage of the conference’s mailing list or a free ad in their member publication.


Writers don’t just teach writing, of course. They can also teach the subjects about which they write. A cook book writer, for instance, can teach cooking classes. A computer book author can give seminars in how to use a program or surf the Net.


When you write and publish books and articles on a topic, you are perceived as an expert. Many authors get calls from companies, associations, and schools asking them to conduct a program on the topic of their book. If you want to generate more of these inquiries, include a description of your speech or seminar, address, and phone number in the bios that run with your articles and books. I once got a $6,000 Army contract to teach 20 people writing for 2 days because someone had found my phone number in the back of my book The Elements of Business Writing (Macmillan).


Is teaching for you? It depends on your personality and what you enjoy. All writers are communicators and teachers, but some are comfortable only when there is a printed page between them and their audience. If you are introverted and dislike public speaking, you may still be able to make money teaching … but you simply may not want to. In that case, stick to taking courses rather than giving them.


On the other hand, if you are as comfortable at the podium as you are in front of the word processor, consider giving teaching and speaking a try. It’s a nice change of pace from the isolation of writing. So are the fat paychecks … and the applause when you finish.


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BOB BLY is the author of 40 books including the just-published Secrets of a Freelance Writer: Revised Second Edition (Henry Hold & Co.). For a free catalog of Bob’s books, tapes, and reports for writers, contact: Bob Bly, 22 E. Quackenbush Avenue, Dumont, NJ 07628, phone 201-385-1220, fax 201-385-1138, email: Rwbly@aol.com.